Thursday 28 June 2012

Way Down East (1920)

Vejen til lyset

There are real disasters and then there are unnecessary disasters.

In the real disasters you, somebody or something else have brought you into a terrible situation that may require terrible measures or incredible amounts of luck to resolve.

Whereas the unnecessary disasters are those that are only in people’s heads. If you break the spell, the problem is not there at all, but because you don’t everything goes to pieces.

“Way down east” is about unnecessary disasters.

The poor innocent girl is fooled into marriage, made pregnant, thrown out, her child dies, she is thrown out again on suspicion of being unmarried, tolerated in a new home, “forced” to flee again when her “frivolous” nature is being revealed.

Out of all this only her child’s death is a real disaster. The rest only happens because she thinks there is a problem. What is her crime? She was tricked into marriage? Uuhh, terrible girl! Come on, get real. If she stopped thinking she was to blame and instead threw blame where it was deserved, surely she would be understood and most of the disaster would have been avoided.

It may be that it is just me living in a different time and place that make me unable to relate to the story. That may be unfair to the movie and D.W. Griffith, but I cannot help feeling annoyed with the unnecessity of all these troubles and it takes the attention away from the things that actually work in this film. The ice floe sequence in the end, Lillian Gish, a forward moving coherent story (new ground for D.W. Griffith).

I really really cannot deal with small children dying or being hurt. It is worse than anything you can throw at me in a movie. The simple fact that it happened in this film is a real downer, at least for me.

No, Griffith is not my favorite director. This movie is not bad. It just does not appeal to me.    


  1. I really really cannot deal with small children dying or being hurt. It is worse than anything you can throw at me in a movie.

    I like that you said that. While I don't have a problem with children dying or being hurt, I have zero tolerance for ANIMALS dying or being hurt. I just can't watch it or listen to it. It makes me feel a little better to read that another 1001 movie watcher has a hang-up similar to mine.

    Way Down East is most definitely a melodrama, and you're right, I think you do have to view it as a product of its time.

    1. Which makes it more interesting as a historic document than as a movie. That is also okay with me. When movies start to annoy me I change to that perspective. In that light all the movies on the list are interesting.

  2. This is probably the weakest Griffith film on the "list". Had that ice sequence never been shot, I expect it wouldn't have made it into the 1001 book And, you're right, this film is real downer--we watched it in one of my film classes and a lot of students fell asleep.

  3. It is not so much boring as it is depressive in a useless way. We are supposed to think "oh, poor girl", but I find it hard to do that.